The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies

Managers want employees to put in long days, respond to their emails at all hours, and willingly donate their nights, weekends and vacations without complaining. The underlings in this equation have little control, as overwork cascades from the top of the organizational pyramid to the bottom. Then there’s the psychology of it, which says we log way too many hours because of a mix of inner drives — ambition, machismo, greed, anxiety, guilt, enjoyment, pride, a desire to prove we’re important, and an overdeveloped sense of duty. So who’s to blame for overwork? What a large body of research has shown is that regardless of our reasons for working long hours, overwork doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t result in more output because most managers couldn’t tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. In reality, overwork hurts both employees and the companies they work for. Even if we enjoy our jobs and work long hours voluntarily, we’re simply more likely to make mistakes when we’re tired — and most of us tire more easily than we think we do. So why do we keep doing it? The general consensus is because people just don’t know how bad overwork is. That's why there's so much talk about "work-life" balance. Research shows that it's not just a cliche, but really can provide more quality in our home lives.